Modi wave sweeps out US envoy

Tags: News

Powell perceived close to UPA, avoided Gujarat CM till Feb

Modi wave sweeps out US envoy
In an unexpected development, the US ambassador to India, Nancy J Powell resigned on Monday, ending a stint that shall best be remembered for the long-drawn diplomatic row between India and the US that caused a huge setback to bilateral ties.

There had already been speculation that the US envoy would be shunted out if BJP leader Narendra Modi becomes prime minister — she is being held responsible for advising continuation of the visa ban on him and becoming ‘cold’ towards him.

The US has denied a visa to Modi since 2005, having begun his boycott like many other western nations after the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat when he was chief minister. While the visa ban was imposed long before Powell assumed charge here, there have been reports saying she was not keen on making any overtures to Modi. This, despite Washington's desire to warm up to him. The US eventually ended its boycott of Modi when Powell called on him in Ahmedabad in February.

With the resignation of Powell, a career diplomat, the Obama administration can now choose a political appointee as its next envoy to India and perhaps attempt to repair battered ties. As for reports of differences of opinion between the envoy and the US administration, the state department on Monday said it was not so. "Not any truth to your question about differences — she is retiring after 37 years of service," state department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf said when asked about these reports.

The US embassy in New Delhi put out a short statement late Monday night stating that the envoy announced at a US mission Town Hall meeting that that she had submitted her resignation to US president Barack Obama. And that as planned, she would now retire to her home in Delaware, US before the end of May. She did not specify any reason for her resignation.

With her resignation, Ms Powell is calling it a day on a foreign service career that spanned 37 years. Many of these years, in fact, were spent serving in the sub-continent including in Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. .

However, the envoy isn't ending her career in her blaze of glory as the arrest and humiliation of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade in New York for alleged visa fraud happened while Powell occupied Roosevelt House, the official residence of the US ambassador here.

The perception in South Block which houses the external affairs ministry was that Powell had wrongly advised Washington that it could go ahead with Devyani's arrest.

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